Back in 2019 I attended the D23 Expo and one of the most exciting announcements was Marvel’s upcoming film Eternals. How cool to see Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek and more coming out on stage to be in a Marvel movie with a female director! This was going to be awesome!
Unfortunately I must admit to being completely underwhelmed and even frustrated by Eternals. It has some positive aspects of course but its main downfall is a confusing script with inconsistently written characters stuck in a timeline that makes it impossible to build momentum or tell a story that makes sense. We don’t even have the ties to the MCU to help guide the new characters into the world (Wong for instance in Shang-Chi filled this role).
Other people seem to have enjoyed it more than me. I don’t know what to to tell you but most of the film I had no idea what was happening. There’s lots of exposition explaining the rules of the emergence and celestials, for example, but when these events are happening the conversation explaining said event had been so long ago I had forgotten what it meant and was left wondering what was happening and why our characters were behaving in this way.
It might help to watch this movie on Disney Plus when it is available and have a pen and paper to keep track of all the rules and what happens in each time period and how that matters. But should that be required of every movie? My friend seemed to keep track of details better than I did but my brain (I have some dyslexia and am more of a linear learner) struggles when plots are fragmented like they are in Eternals. It’s especially frustrating when they could have easily made different choices that would have made sense in the theater on the first watch.
Another problem I had was with the characters. Because the timeline flips around over centuries we see characters at weak and high points but since this is out of order it’s confusing and makes it hard to invest in the characters. One character is a hero in a timeline, in another he or she betrays and even kills our heroes, and then he or she’s back to being a good hero and then final redemption. I love the Marvel heroes but these will have to be explained better in other movies because I did not get to know them hardly at all. Also their powers seemed completely random and some hardly useful for defending the world against deviants.
All the actors in Eternals give good performances. The cinematography and visual effects are impressive. There are also grown-up moments that some may enjoy (Marvel’s first sex scene since Iron Man). I also appreciated the diversity and inclusivity but unfortunately it all sinks under the weight of a poorly written script and makes for a frustrating watch.
If you like Eternals I am happy for you. Indeed, I am jealous because I wanted to have that experience. Please keep comments civil. Anything threatening or unkind will be deleted.
This weekend our latest superhero movie, Justice League, came out, and I’ve been hesitant to post a blog review. I did a video review right after I saw it, which I would love for you to check out.
Basically I have really mixed feelings about Justice League, which makes it a hard film to write a coherent review about. Let me just give you a few thoughts:
First of all, I have not enjoyed Man of Steel, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. I loved Wonder Woman but that had the benefit of director Patty Jenkins over the more problematic Zack Snyder. So needless to say I went into Justice League with pretty low expectations, which always makes me a little more forgiving of its many flaws.
The positives to Justice League is I enjoyed the heroes and I’m a hero girl when it comes to comic book movies. The Flash was fun. Wonder Woman was of course great. Batman was fine and Aquaman was better than you’d expect. I am also so happy to be able to say they finally got Superman right! This is a Superman who is joyous and positive not mopey and ashamed of who he is. This is a Superman that fights for truth, justice and the American way!!! I have been waiting for that ever since Man of Steel made me depressed for days. I had a huge smile on my face for particularly the last 30 minutes of the movie, which gave Superman the time to shine I’ve been hoping for.
I also thought the Joss Whedon influenced dialogue was fun and I laughed a fair amount. One scene in particular between Wonder Woman and Aquaman was especially funny. The Flash had a lot of funny lines and the entire team had a nice chemistry together.
Unfortunately that’s where my praise has to end. A lot of Justice League is a hot mess. The plot is tough to defend with a villain that is poorly developed and a structure that is incoherent and sloppy at best. It wasn’t as badly put together as Suicide Squad but it was close.
Also the action was an orange and gray mess. It looked like a video game especially any fighting with the villain. If you like Zack Snyder’s aesthetic than you will enjoy it but I’ve never been a fan and this was really rough to look at. A lot of people complained about the action at the end of Wonder Woman. This is much uglier than that but throughout the movie. The only movie I can think of that looked worse this year as far as action was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The CGI was also poorly executed and once again looked like a cheap video game. It was also a bummer to see his leering camera over Wonder Woman and the skimpy outfits the girls wore in Themiscyra.
Much was made about Danny Elfman using the original Superman and Batman scores for Justice League but nothing really stood out to me music-wise.
But all this aside I can’t deny that when I saw Superman fighting for truth and justice it made me really happy. I’m just so torn on this one.
I guess since it did make me smile I will give it a smile worthy but just barely.
I have a bit of a bone to pick with movies today! That’s right I’m just going to say it-
WHERE HAVE THE MOVIES FOR KIDS GONE?
I’m not talking about movies you can take kids too. I’m talking about movies that are designed with kids in mind, specific for their intellect and to inspire their creativity. These are such a rarity that most families have consented to taking their kids to more mature films or not seeing movies at all.
The most obvious case of this problem is in superhero movies. Gone are the days when a child could play superman, batman or spider-man and then live those stories at the movies. These days Superman is murdered,Batman is a killer who sleeps with Batgirl and we will see what Spider-man is but it won’t be PG. I can tell you that much. I get that the new thing is R rated superhero movies and that’s fine. But I wish the other end of the spectrum was also having time and thought put into superhero movies for them. The latest Ghostbusters movie tried to do that a little bit but it was ran out of town on a rail.
What really made me think about this is the recent Power Rangers Movie. I enjoyed it and gave it a positive review but if ever there is a franchise which should be for kids you’d think it would be Power Rangers. However, the new movie earns its PG-13 rating with crude humor, violence, adult themes and a skimpy bikini. Why was this necessary? I get we need to update film to a modern audience but why does always mean excluding children?
The Transformers movies are another example of a franchise which should appeal to kids but fails spectacularly in doing so. It’s about freakin toys and yet it is loaded with gratuitous shots of women and mind numbing visual destruction.
In animation we see this trend all the time. In a desperate attempt to entertain parents studios often throw in adults only jokes or content and I hate that so much. For example, in The Minions movie we get an extended sequence with a Minion wearing a thong and having a threesome of sorts with fire hydrants in a spa. Why is that necessary?
And I’m not saying movies for children can’t be dark. My cousin was just telling me that her 3 year old daughter loves Song of the Sea– a movie about a boy mourning his dead Mother. She loves it! I’ve known many kids that love deep movies like Bambi,Wall-e or Dumbo much more than their adult parents. It’s all about balance and creating compelling characters/worlds. I feel the recent Beauty and the Beast sucked a lot of the joy out of the film by having the household objects be responsible for the curse and them dying and all. It’s hard to enjoy Be Our Guest and songs like that as much when this gloom is hanging over the proceedings. I need the humor and happy scenes to balance out the darkness
The only family film from a major studio to my knowledge getting a G rating this year is Disneynature’s Born in China. Everything else is PG or PG-13. Granted the MPAA has made it extremely difficult to get a G rating because of what they call “mild thematic elements” but still so few even come close. It’s very frustrating. The Peanuts Movie is a lone example I can think of recently that got the G rating.
It’s not even about ratings but the quest for the family film hurts movies because no movie can be everything to every audience. Some movies should be made for children. Why is that such a foreign concept?
Dreamwork’s Home is another example of a movie that awkwardly smashes together themes for adults and children creating a very unpleasant experience. If they had just focused on making a cute alien movie for kids it would have been SO much better. The Angry Birds Movie would also have been much better if they had abandoned the crass adult humor and just stuck with a cute movie for kids.
I’m not even a parent but I would way rather watch something like Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh that is carefully made for children than most movies which try to please the entire family.
In some ways the latest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, has been quite revelatory for me. You see, over on my youtube channel I had a special podcast with a comics expert friend of mine named Trevor at HowtoLoveComics.com.
This forced me to dive into the comic books of Doctor Strange before seeing the film, something I have never done with a comic book movie. I was impressed with how understanding the lore and comics helped add to the moviegoing experience. It’s something I hope to continue to do for future films.
I don’t think reading the comic books make you excuse flaws in the movie but it helps you understand the characters on a bit of a deeper level than may be explored in one particular movie.
Anyway, it was an interesting experience that I would recommend to all of you.
As far as the movie, Doctor Strange, I enjoyed it very much. There are 2 reasons to enjoy Doctor Strange:
First, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange. I am a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan and feel this is the best use we have seen for him in the movies yet. He manages to capture the brilliance of Doctor Strange while also getting a desperate humble side of him. I’ve heard many people compare his character to Tony Stark in Iron Man but I think he spends more of this movie humbled and weak than we get from Tony for many movies. He’s also much more awkward than Tony ever is.
Iron Man also has more substantial supporting characters than Doctor Strange gets. Pepper is a more active character in the first Iron Man than Rachel McAdam’s Christine and Rhodey is certainly more important to Tony than Wong is to Doctor Strange.
So, it is up to Benedict Cumberbatch and his character to carry the movie, and I think he does so very well. He’s charismatic and likable despite being arrogant and over-confident at times.
The second standout is the amazing visuals. I saw this film on IMAX 3D and it was pretty awe inspiring. Doctor Strange learns from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) that there are multiple dimensions. The mystical realms are accessed when we learn to manipulate and control these dimensions.
The movie does a great job showing these dimensions and not explaining them to us or the magic that goes along with them. We see it and that’s good enough without understanding the background or mechanics.
A lot of people have compared the visuals to Inception and I can see their point. However, I think they are more dreamlike than Inception. There is something a bit more grounded in Inception’s graphics and something more ephemeral about them here in my opinion.
The one caution I will give about the graphics is as spectacular as they are, they did make me a little motion sick. Some of the sequences towards the end I feel went on a little bit too long, and I started to feel a little nauseated. I have a very sensitive stomach when it comes to such things, so it is probably just me. You will have to make your own determination. That was just my experience.
A lot of people have complained about the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. It is a tricky thing because casting an Asian man like in the comic book could come across as reinforcing stereotypes, so which is the greater sin? Regardless, I think Tilda Swinton does a great job in the role as there is something other-worldly about her. Also her character has a bit more of an arc than I was expecting or was in the comic books I read.
All the rest of the performances are good but they are pretty brief. This is Doctor Strange’s movie and it is his origin story. Some will roll their eyes at another origin story but I didn’t mind it. The movie is well paced, clipping along quite nicely and the tone is carefully controlled. I enjoyed the more thoughtful moments along with the humor.
I don’t know if I liked Doctor Strange as much as Captain America: Civil War, but it is a very enjoyable origin story. I liked the character of Doctor Strange, and I liked the world we were given. That’s about all I needed to be happy. The story was good enough to engage me
I look forward to seeing how Doctor Strange works within the MCU going forward and how the new dimensions of mystical magic help add a new layer to the storytelling at Marvel.
So last month in preparation for Batman v Superman I watched all the Batman and Superman movies and gave my best shot with a mini review for each film. Even though I’m kind of superhero movie’d out I decided I’d plow forward and do the Marvel movies as well. It’s no secret that I enjoy the Marvel movies much more than DC properties but before Avengers I actually wasn’t into superhero movies at all.
From Catwoman to Green Lantern, it seemed like all I saw were horrible movies, so I was turned off of comic book movies. I didn’t see any of the early Marvel films and had no interest in seeing The Avengers. But my friends told me I had to see it and despite not seeing the earlier films I watched it and to my surprise- loved it. I liked seeing the formation of the team and all the different personalities. It had action but it wasn’t too bleak or drab. It was funny without being stupid and it had a female character that was awesome.
It took me a while to then go back and watch the earlier films, and I enjoyed those as well. I know a lot of people complain about Marvel’s villains but that honestly doesn’t bother me. I guess I like my heroes better than my villains. I’ve yet to see a film from Marvel that I’ve hated. They just get me!
So I decided to do these mini-reviews Best Shot style like the Batman and Superman posts. I am going to split these up into 2 posts as it will take me a bit to watch phase 2 and I didn’t want to forget why I picked my phase 1 spots and 13 reviews seemed like a lot for one post. I hope you enjoy them and let me know what your favorite shot or moments are from these films. Thanks!
Iron Man got the MCU off with a bang and is beloved for a reason. A super satisfying comic book movie with Robert Downey Jr oozing charisma out of every pore. Jeff Bridges is a decent foe but what I like most about this film is how smart Tony has to be. He’s given scraps and is able to build his first suit and then he continually uses his brain to make things better and help more people (and himself). I think you lose a little bit of that scrapiness and intellect as the series continues so it was refreshing to see it again. I picked this shot because I think it shows Tony thinking and problem solving.
The Incredible Hulk-
The Incredible Hulk is a weird Marvel movie because it doesn’t really feel like a Marvel movie. It feels like something more out of Birdman than Marvel and in that regard it is interesting. Edward Norton seems like he is in another movie he is so dark and brooding all the time. Once Mark Ruffalo takes over you get a little more fun. There’s also way too little hulking for a Hulk movie. That said the final showdown is fun and the chemistry between Liv Tyler as Betty is good. I picked this shot because I thought it was really cool moment in the big fight.
Iron Man 2-
Everyone kind of hates on Iron Man 2 and it is a flawed film but I enjoyed watching it. They definitely make Tony too unlikable in this film. He’s a real jerk and Mickey Rourke is just ok as Whiplash. We also get more of Pepper than we probably need but I don’t hate her like many people seem too. It’s nice to get our first glimpse of Black Widow in all her Scarlett Johansson sexiness. But the best part of this movie is exploring the idea of a famous superhero. That’s never really been done in a superhero movie and I found that interesting. That’s why I picked this shot showing Iron Man playing for the crowd in all his glory.
Thor is probably the character from the MCU that shouldn’t have worked. I mean a Norse God with a giant hammer just sounds so stupid but I actually enjoy this film! First of all, I love the world of Asgard that they build. It looks beautiful and the dynamic between Loki and Thor is dynamite. I also like how Loki is trying to get the approval of his father Odin played by Anthony Hopkins. Where it falters for me is when Thor gets to earth. Some of those scenes are very amusing but I don’t really love Natalie Portman as Jane and don’t feel that she and Thor have great chemistry. I’m always waiting for it to get back to Asgard. (I also think that Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth are two of the world’s prettiest people so that helps…). My shot for Thor features father Odin and the two sons Thor and Loki- the best parts of the movie!
Captain America: The First Avenger-
This movie could have easily been bland and boring with our origin story of Captain America- the super soldier. However, fortunately for us it turned out to be a ton of fun. In a way it is kind of like the early Indiana Jones movies. The hero defeats Nazis (or in this case Hydra) without it feeling calloused and cheap to real historical tragedies and events. I love the 1940s touches throughout and the action is really enjoyable. I also like seeing scrawny Steve Rogers turn into the superhero we all know and love. Tommy Lee Jones is also perfect casting as the colonel and I like Hugo Weaving as Red Skull. I think this shot captures the spirit and joy of the film best. The Avengers-
As I said above The Avengers brought me back into appreciating comic book movies. It’s one of those movies I can’t imagine not being at least marginally entertained by. I love how the team doesn’t work together or gel immediately. You get their individual stories and journeys to the group so it feels so satisfying when they all do become one. Loki is so much fun as the villain and I love his interactions with all involved. Agent Coulson’s death is emotional and I totally buy it galvanizing all of our heroes. I love each of the Avengers and the witty dialogue Joss Whedon gives them is perfect. I think Mark Ruffalo was a good choice over Edward Norton for the Hulk. The action is tense without being drab or dreary and the special effects hold up. It’s just a great movie, not just a great comic book movie. I love it! It’s probably predictable to pick this shot of our team but it’s honestly my favorite so it’s my pick!
Ever since the disappointment (to most) of Batman v Superman I have heard lots of talk (oh so much talk…) and one thing I’ve heard repeatedly is ‘Superman is a boring character. You can’t do him right in a modern movie’. When I first heard this I agreed. On the surface it seems obvious. He’s a near-Messianic character (especially in the Snyder movies) who only has one physical vulnerability of kryptonite. Perfection can be interesting in a way but it is more about the way that perfection is responded to not the character himself. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered if this was too easy an answer. If you think about Superman’s enduring appeal over the years there has to be more to him than his similarities to Jesus. Surely a boring character can not be consistently popular since 1938? So what went wrong and how do we make Superman interesting again? I have some ideas.
Now I should start by saying I am not a comic book expert but I have consulted a few, and I have seen all of the Superman movies. I know there are different eras in the comics and my friend at @howtolovecomics helped enlighten me a little bit on the character, but I am mostly going from a movie perspective.
Superman Returns is a flawed film but one thing I noticed on my recent viewing is he isn’t all brawn, and he isn’t all emotion either. He has to be smart in order to succeed. For example, in the great plane sequence he can’t just fling the plane around because there are people on board. And he can’t save each person individually because he’s still only one person. There are also multiple pieces breaking off and crashing at the same time so deciding what to fix where requires some smarts.
According to my friend, Superman was a smarter character in the 60’s comics. @Howtolovecomics explained “There were a lot of stories in the 60s where Superman had to use his brains to get out of a situation, which I like. He still used his powers, but he had to use them in a way that solved a puzzle.”
If you think about it this element of Superman’s intellectual abilities is completely missing in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. In MofS he is confronted with brute strength and barely eaks out a victory. If anything Zod is actually smarter than Superman with some sound logic to what he is trying to do. Superman has the emotional weight of the film but most of the movie he gets advice from people. He doesn’t figure out much on his own (there’s not much to figure out just be bigger and stronger than your opponent and fight/hide at the right time).
With Batman v Superman, Superman is again completely disengaged intellectually. Lex, who can challenge Superman in terms of brain power, is solely focused on manipulating Batman into confronting the God-like power of Superman. Nearly every time he is confronted by Lex, Superman is caught off guard. For example, he doesn’t expect what happens to his Mother or put together anything before the Senate incident. Basically Superman in these films is a ‘big lug’- a sweet, big guy who is very sincere and strong. He’s like the Michael Oher or the Wreck-it Ralph of comic books. (In fairness Batman can be very easily manipulated in this world also but he is at least putting pieces together).
I guess this type of character can work but again it is usually because the things around him are interesting or the quest they go on is engaging. None of that happens to this modern Superman. He stands around a lot, saves people in montages and we are told contrasting views on how to think about him. No wonder the character seems boring!
One of the things that made Smallville a good show is there were constantly things that Clark Kent couldn’t control despite his massive powers. In addition, he was confronted with a smart enemy who challenged him in the best portrayal of Lex Luthor by Michael Rosenbaum. This is obviously easier to do with a Superman who is growing up and going to high school but not impossible as an adult. There are plenty of things that Superman can’t control as an adult that if we could see into his mind would make the character very interesting.
For example, in Batman v Superman we get a scene where he is rescuing a woman at Day of the Dead. Why did he pick that woman? Why not the surely hundreds of women in car accidents right there in Gotham/Metropolis? From what we see there is plenty to keep Batman busy. We are given no motivation and so we assume it is because Zack Snyder thought a Day of the Dead rescue would look cool. You see what I am saying? He’s still only one person and this modern version treats him like he can part the Red Sea and bring down plagues upon the entire world. He must make choices and those choices could be really interesting.
Not only can he not be everywhere and save everyone but he can’t control the choices of other people. He can give speeches at the UN (Superman 4 reference! Oh no!) but in the end he can at best be a symbol that hopefully will motivate a ripple effect of good choices.
Last year I did an Adventures in Reading segment over on my other blog. This was an attempt to dive into genres of literature that I hadn’t experienced. I still need to do graphic novels but did comic books and manga. It was a lot of fun and for the comic book segment I came across a Superman issue entitled DC 507 Adventures of Superman Bloodsport.
In this story a Vietnam vet looses a job to a black man in an affirmative action type situation. This causes him to become very bitter. He justifies his hatred by claiming those in the in a poor neighborhood called Hob’s Heights are ‘taking not giving people’. He only see’s them as welfare drains and addicts and thinks the world would be better if they were done away with.
While this type of villain could become very preachy, in the talented writers hands it could be very interesting. Hate is completely out of Superman’s control. The man in the wheelchair could have become this kind of character in Batman v Superman, but he is again used more to manipulate Batman than Superman. The thing that is interesting with Bloodsport also is that he is a trained army sniper, military veteran who takes over an entire project development- making it harder than you might think to get rid of him.
There is also an emotional heft to the story with a little boy who is murdered at the beginning. The Mother then turns to alcohol and Superman has to try and help her as well. Again, could be very saccharine but in the right hands it could also be another thing that Superman can’t control. You have this loss, grief, and addiction that he can’t make go away with his powers. There’s something there that could be interesting.
Now I can hear you saying ‘Boy Rachel, your Superman sounds like a real downer. Isn’t that what you didn’t like in Man of Steel?’. At least to me, in Man of Steel there wasn’t a moment of inspiration, a moment of hope- which is what Superman is about in the end. If he is able to use his powers, intellect and empathy to help make things better would that not be a more rousing hero movie? I mean that is ‘truth, justice, and the American way’ if I’ve ever heard it!
And you can make it a little bit fun as well. Throw in some quips and give Lois some moments of witty banter with Superman but the film would feel inspirational, heroic, instead of dark and dismal.
So in summary, if someone asked me to fix Superman I would give him obstacles he can’t control. Make him use his intelligence, not just his powers, to make decisions and win. I would present him with a villain like Bloodsport who truly hates for definable reasons. Not just being bad for the sake of being bad. This throws in more elements he can’t control. Give him characters he loves who make poor choices like addiction and then show him grappling to help those loved ones. This makes the character interesting instead of simply a God-like edifice we don’t care about.
What do you think of my idea? Anything there? How would you make Superman interesting or do you think he is an inherently boring character?
This month I am taking care of my Blindspot entry early. This is the series where we watch a classic we have never seen before and give our thoughts on it. I have already done Blade Runner, Tron and now we look at The Dark Knight Rises. Yes my friends, today I saw Dark Knight Rises for the first time. I’m probably one of the few Americans who can say that!
The reason why I was hesitant to see it was because I didn’t really care for Dark Knight (I know shock. Ah, horrors, I have no taste!). It was too cynical, violent and frankly creepy for me. It was dominated by a mesmerizing villain and I don’t like stories about villains. I like stories about heroes. So I was reticent to see the final installment and then the Colorado Shooting happened and it put me over the edge. You can read my thoughts on that day here.
I quoted my cousin who said:
“How about the very movie that was showing in the theater where the shooting took place?! I know The Dark Knight Rises is the movie of the Summer, but I walked out because of how intensely violent I felt it was and the ruthless killer Bane was dark and evil. After 20 minutes I went back in because I didn’t want to feel left out… (wish i would have chosen differently now.) i know its bold to say, but we cannot keep watching this violence on screen and expect to be exempt from it in real life!”
I admit I have become a bit more immune to these things than back then but the violence in Dark Knight still bothered me when watching it a few weeks ago.
So that’s all kind of background to my viewing experience today. And…
I have to be honest- I liked The Dark Knight Rises a lot more than I thought I would. Why? Well, at its core is a message of hope that a city can rise up and confront evil. In the Dark Knight, on the other hand, the most noble soul turns into the villain. It’s the opposite message. Everyone, even Batman has an angle and isn’t that different from the Joker after all.
That’s not to say it is perfect but I did enjoy the viewing experience a lot more. I know I’m unique in that but I’m not writing these reviews to tell you what you want to hear but what I truly believe.
So basically the plot in Dark Knight Rises is Bruce Wayne is blamed for the death of Harvey Dent, who is looked at as a hero. He goes into hiding for 8 years. Bane, a masked beast of a man, played by Tom Hardy is on a mission to remove corruption from Gotham by removing what he see’s as injustice. Injustice with the government, wealth, commerce and everything else.
Bane is trained by Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins (who trained Batman) and he is also on a mission to kill Batman who killed Ra. Bane tricks Catwoman Selina Kyle to get Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints and he stages a takedown of the stock exchange destroying Bruce and Wayne Enterprises.
The plot does get pretty convoluted at that point but Alfred resigns (and is missing most of the movie), Lucius becomes involved, Commissioner Gordon is hunting down Bane as best he can and we get to meet John Blake who is essentially a Robin-type story. There is also Wayne Board Member Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard who wants to see a fusion reactor produced for energy but Bruce fears it could get into the hands of people like Bane.
Bane tries to stage a type of Marxist revolution killing off the powerful and rich while manipulating the common people with fear. This is in the end is not effective when many people fight back (literally in a type of battle) and Batman pays the ultimate price. The film leaves us with the message “a hero can be anyone”
One of the things that bothers me about most Batman movies is Batman is always the most boring person in the film. Dark Knight Rises is an interesting situation because he is not really the lead character. The City of Gotham is the lead, and its transformation is what is compelling.So basically Batman Begins is about Bruce becoming Batman. Dark Knight is about the Joker and the power of evil and corruption. Dark Knight Rises is about the City of Gotham and it finding its hope again.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems in the film. Batman is in the film too little and there are probably too many scenes of Bruce watching the action in prison. Also it can be difficult to understand what Tom Hardy is saying with that mask on. There are also other plotholes like his speedy recovery with a leg brace from a debilitating injury but it’s a comic book movie. I guess I expect that kind of heroics in a comic book movie. I don’t watch this genre for gritty realism. And in reality there are plotholes in Dark Knight whether people chose to acknowledge them or not.
I’m not saying Dark Knight Rises is a masterpiece. I don’t know if I feel that way about any superhero movie outside of The Incredibles; although there are many I enjoy. I’m just saying I appreciated the change in tone from the previous installment.
I also loved Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. She was confident, sexy, and smart. Her performance certainly wipes the bad taste out of my mouth from Halle Berry’s Catwoman. That’s for sure! I thought she was really entertaining.
Miranda Tate while fine was more of an average character, and I don’t know that I completely buy her big reveal at the end. It feels a little cheap to me. Nolan didn’t need to make everything in all 3 movies tie up in a perfect bow. We even see Scarecrow in a cameo during the sentencing scene. That wasn’t really needed.
Also many of the other characters are relegated to bit roles. Alfred has very powerful moments but then is missing for most of the movie. Gordon we don’t see enough of , as well as a number of other characters.
As far as Bane goes I found his political motivations to ‘share the wealth’ kind of interesting but like I said he is tough to understand at times and is a little one-note. The fight scenes are intense but perhaps because I wasn’t as creeped out by Bane as Joker they didn’t bother me as much as the violence in Dark Knight.
If I’m honest you do kind of tell this was the B storyline that they had to use with Heath Ledger’s passing but I still think it turned out very well.
Dark Knight Rises feels like a comic book movie and not a crime drama. That said, having seen how the story ends I do appreciate the Dark Knight much more than I did before (it might not sound like it but it is true). I can now see the story as a true trilogy and the hopeful ending does make the middle violence a little more palatable. It is almost better to think of the 3 films as one long movie and not 3 separate stories. Of course the direction is well done by Nolan with beautiful cinematography from Wally Pfister and terrific score from Hans Zimmer. I don’t think Nolan has made a technically bad movie yet.
You could definitely make an argument that Dark Knight Rises is self-indulgent at its 165 minute time and there are definitely lags but over all I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Chop this one up to low expectations if you want.
Now that I’ve been thoroughly depressed by the Oscars let’s talk about movies that will never get a live action Oscar- superhero movies. I have actually not been a huge superhero movie fan. In fact, in 2011 I wrote a post on my other blog called ‘Thumbs Down to Summer Movies’. I had recently seen Green Lantern and it was the tipping point. Here’s what I said
“It’s at this point I must make a confession- I don’t like super hero movies. It’s hard to explain why but I have never liked them. With the exception of Harry Potter, I can’t think of a super hero/fantasy franchise I’m a fan of (I’m a marginal fan of Lord of the Rings). I also like the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but they have been sullied by mediocre follow-ups in recent years.
Despite all the special effects I find most super hero movies boring and I don’t like 3D”
So, yes I had sworn off superhero movies and all their progeny but then Avengers happened and I smiled at these likable fun characters with witty dialogue. And we got 2014 and I saw Captain America 2 which was actually a spy movie, Xmen Days of Future Past which is actually a time travel story, Guardians of the Galaxy which is actually a space opera, and Big Hero 6 which is a movie about loss and grief in the guise of a superhero movie.
It was then I had a revelation ‘I like superhero movies when they aren’t superhero movies’. Ding, ding, ding! Fortunately for me Hollywood has figured this out and aside from the odious Man of Steel and the cluttered Amazing Spiderman 2 they have had a remarkable track record of late to the point where I’m actually looking forward to superhero movies now (although highly skeptical about Batman v Superman but we will see). Marvel at least has made me a believer.
I feel like I also have to give a caveat that I am actually not a big Dark Knight fan. It’s super well made and acted but it was just too violent for me and I found it cynical, dark and Batman is such a bore. I wanted him to lose the whole way through. You can all hate me now but it’s really how I felt….
So with all that what are my favorite superhero movies? Here goes.
10. Superman- Christopher Reeves is so charming as Superman and he makes an ok Clark Kent. It doesn’t get bogged down in exposition but is light and fun with great music and decent if hokey special effects. Gene Hackman is good as Lex Luther . Superman is kind of a boring superhero because he’s so perfect but this film finds the balance of embracing the silly while not being too silly (aka Superman 3 and 4…). We also don’t get too much of the Savior metaphors like we do with Man of Steel or Superman Returns that take themselves way too seriously.
9. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Yep friends this is my favorite Batman movie. Maybe that won’t be a surprise because I love animation but I honestly think this is the best movie depiction of Batman. He’s not just a bore but he gets jealous, frustrated, happy, a mixture of emotions. Kevin Conroy is great as Batman and perhaps it is only in animation that you can pull off the mixture of Bruce Wayne and Batman because you can draw whatever you want it to be where an actor may just be better at one side than the other (same problem so far with Peter Parker). Mark Hamil is wonderful as Joker. It’s a well written script with a bit of a mystery involved but it isn’t too grim or violent. Now I just wonder when the heck it will come out on blu-ray!
8. The Rocketeer- A movie too often forgotten but a very sweet homage to 40’s action movies. It stars Billy Campbell as a stuntman who finds a rocketpack that was designed by Howard Hughes. Jennifer Connely plays his girlfriend and the rest of the cast is stellar with Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton as our Nazi bad guy, Terry O’Quin and more. I defy you to not be charmed by it.
7. X-men: Days of Future Past- Of the big franchises Xmen has always been my favorite. Even when I had sworn off the genre I still kind of liked the X-men movies. Maybe partly because they are the only franchise to pull of interesting female characters and they almost always deal with something thoughtful and complex without getting mean spirited and who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman? I think the recent X-men Days of Future Past is the best of the 7 (including the Wolverine movies) to have come out. It has it all- amazing ensemble (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy I could go on. Almost every member of the cast has an Oscar nomination or win. Not bad for a superhero movie).
But its also the Inception of Superhero movies. The time travel element creates layers of a puzzle to figure out and Quicksilver is an amazing villain with special effects. It’s great!
6. Spider-man 2- For my money it is the only good Spider-man movie that has come out so far. The others have good elements but this is the only one that fires on all four cylinders. The special effects still hold up, the large set pieces like the train fight is gripping, Tobey McGuire is charming enough to get me to ignore Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and him have good rivalry. But really the reason the movie is special is Dr Octopus who is such a great, engaging villain. He has really positive motivations through a lot of the movie but he has no self control . It makes him very interesting and fun to watch.
5. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier- A great superhero movie because it’s not really a superhero movie. It’s a spy flick like Mission Impossible with an amazing villain for Winter Soldier, great action fight sequences, a car crash sequence which felt so real, Robert Redford is great (that’s the quality of actors we are getting now!). The Nick Furry twist was very clever and it is so well paced. It never lost my interest or got boring. They build the case with very minimal exposition typically housed within a trip to the museum or some other outing so it doesn’t feel like exposition. Captain America is likable and Chris Evans keeps the character innocent like a man from the 40s might be while still being tough.
4. Big Hero 6- I just got Big Hero 6 on blu-ray and watched it and loved it all over again. It is a superhero movie with real heart. I loved the connection of the two brothers through Baymax. It reminds us that those we love never really leave us because the love continues on. I also loved the diversity of the Big Hero 6 and I thought the motivation of the villain was really clever and surprised me. Also Sanfransokyo was gorgeously drawn and a fun new setting. Overall a huge win for Disney.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy- Don’t worry this is my last from last year. Guardians has everything I want in my superhero movie. It is a likable band of misfits that are gathered together to fight a bad guy. I love the friendship between Groot and Rocket. Chris Pratt is great as Starlord. It’s fun, keeps you guessing and has the best soundtrack I’ve heard in years. It really reminded me a lot of Star Wars with a much weaker villain, and that’s really its only mark against it. I think they actually picked the wrong villain. Nebula is much more complex than Ronan. Still I loved it!
2. Incredibles- Even when I had sworn off Superhero movies I still loved The Incredibles. What’s so great about this movie is it includes so many of my favorite genres all in one. It’s a family movie with a stay at home Mom and her 3 kids who all have their struggles, it’s a movie about work and how when we aren’t doing what we are made to do we aren’t happy, and its gorgeous animation. Every choice they made works. The villain is very scary with a believable and brief backstory. Edna is hilarious (no capes!), and the ending is perfect with everyone learning just the right lesson. Also love Samuel L Jackson as Frozone! It’s actually the first movie I saw when I came home from my 20 month mission for my church and it was a great choice to get reintroduced to cinema.
1. Avengers- This actually came out when I was in my ‘I hate superhero movies’ phase but it was the biggest movie ever so of course I ended up seeing it and to my surprise I loved it. What I liked most is it didn’t take itself too seriously. It was fun without being stupid. I hadn’t seen most of the precursor films leading up to Avengers except Ironman but I don’t think you need to enjoy the movie. Joss Whedon is such a great writer creating likable characters that we can root for and a team dynamic that is unpredictable.
I like that the destruction isn’t too bad and its not really trying to teach us anything. Just give us a team we can root behind and see them seriously challenged by a formidable villain in Loki, who I love. Tom Hiddleston is my favorite performance in the movie. He has motivation behind what he is doing and he never gets mean or too violent like the Joker can. He’s probably my favorite comic book villain, maybe because he doesn’t really see himself as a villain. In the end the script is well written and funny with good action. That’s enough to get 1 on my list.
So there you go! What do you think of my list? I know all of you would put the Dark Knight so maybe give me some other one’s besides Dark Knight you would have included? I’d love to hear.
What are the worst superhero movies? Well, I haven’t seen all of the worst but I’d probably say (does Howard the Duck count as superhero movie? If so than he’d be 1):